'Thinking Outside the Box' or 'Outside the Nine Dots'

What does 'thinking outside the box or outside the nine dots mean to you?  We have to be careful that these sort of catch phrases do not become such a clich√©, through overuse as trite slogans and advertising tag lines, that we do not take the time reflect on the powerful concept that they are meant to encapsulate.

Thinking outside the box is to think differently, unconventionally or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel, creative and smart thinking.  This is sometimes called a process of lateral thought or divergent thinking.

The "nine dots" puzzle.
So, where am I going with this? 

The goal of the puzzle is to link all 9 dots using four straight lines or less, without lifting the pen and without tracing the same line more than once. One solution appears below.

One of many solutions to this puzzle is to go beyond the boundaries to link all dots in 4 straight lines.

If you recall, I recently spoke on the topic of 'You are what you eat' which highlighted that we really do create our own destiny, whether we are aware of it or not.  Well, this month I would like to discuss how we must not accept a destiny that has merely happened to us, if not even thrust upon us.  Let me elaborate...

We recently had a consulting firm come in and perform a DNA screening for everyone in the department.  Guess what we found?  You are all extraordinary people with the potential to do anything you choose.  Inadvertently, our antiquated, educational system has trained us to believe there is only one answer, and it can only be found at the back of the book.  Sadly, we have had our creativity and zeal drummed out of us be the time we complete our education, having been churned out the system in batched, by year, like a factory.

Heresy you say?  Let me give you an illustration.  Not too long ago, there was a study in human intelligence and creativity.  They evaluated our capability for divergent thinking.  For example, they took a simple question such as, "what uses can you come up with for a paper clip?" This study was conducted across 1500 people.  An average person would typically come up with 10-15 uses, and at the genius level, people would come up with over 200 uses.  The first group that was tested were children in kindergarten.  How do you suppose they did?  98% of them scored at the genius level.  Now this test was performed over the same group over a number of years; at ages 8-10, and once more at 13-15.  Their creativity deteriorated greatly as they progressed through the educational system, until they finally arrived upon the same average results as everyone else.

Now, please don't hear this as an indictment of our educational system, as that is not my intent, rather, hear that we are all gifted with the capacity for unbounded creativity, and it is only through prolonged training that we become fearful of anything but the correct answer found at the back of the book.  But that is not who you are, and it is not what I require of you.

If we are to truly deliver singular value to the enterprise, then we have to tap into our creativity, as the answer at the back of the book is not going to be enough.  But be prepared, as true innovation is risky, we are going to have to make some mistakes along the way.  But how can we make mistakes, in an enterprise where we measure every financial transaction down the 100th of a percent?  Well, we have to be creative in a very rational, business minded way.  Now I know I am raising a lot of questions here, and it may even seem that I am speaking out of both sides of my mouth.  But I am not!  We must have the courage to think outside the nine dots, and the discipline to carefully mitigate our risks in such a way that successful execution is assured.

So, to recap, you are all brought into this world with a genius capacity for creatively thinking outside the box,   I am not only giving you permission to do so, I require it, and the only limitation that I am applying it that we have ultimately employ business rational thinking to ensure that our creative ideas truly deliver value and that we have done all we can to mitigate the risks and ensure successful execution and delivery.  Now before you look at me as though I have just asked you to leap an entire building in a single bound... you’re not really saying that you are willing to be shown-up by a bunch of kindergartners, are you?  And besides, doesn't that sound like great job description?

What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?  Ok, now let's go do it anyway!

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